The Fairness Scare

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"The Fairness Scare"

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Marin Cogan has a great piece on the right-wing’s mobilization against the phantom menace of the fairness doctrine:

On Election Day, conservatives found a new bogeyman in Senator Chuck Schumer, after Fox News host Bill Hemmer cornered him about the issue on the air. Schumer just smirked: “I think we should all try to be fair and balanced, don’t you?” Rush Limbaugh seized on Schumer’s comments as evidence that the Democrats would “do everything they can” to bring the doctrine back. Two days after the election, National Review’s Peter Kirsanow tried to rally the troops to preempt the return of the policy. “Waiting until Inauguration Day to get geared up is too late. By that time the Fairness Doctrine Express will be at full steam–wavering Democrats will be pressed to support the new Democratic president, weak-kneed Republicans will want to display comity, the mainstream media will not be saddened to see talk radio annihilated and much of the public will be too enraptured by Obama’s Camelot inauguration to notice or care.”

To figure out who was causing such agitation, I went searching for the proponents of the fairness doctrine. I looked at Obama’s position–and it turns out that he doesn’t want the policy reinstated. Then I called the array of Democratic congressmen who had been tagged by conservatives as doctrine proponents. But they all denied any intention to push for its reinstatement. As some of the world’s great egotists, it’s not surprising that Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly believe they would be the first political prisoners interred in an Obama administration. But, the more I searched for actual evidence of the doctrine’s return, the more I had to conclude that Schumer was just messing with their heads.

It’s very strange. Political movements mischaracterize the other side’s general goals all the time. But I’ve never heard of anything like the current conservative mania for blocking a particular legislative provision that nobody is trying to enact.

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